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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Liz Phair returns + Oliver Wood goes solo + new music by London Grammar, Yard Arms, Wilderado

Liz Phair: Spanish Doors

The title of Phair's upcoming album, her first in 11 years, is Soberish, referring to a state of moderation - such as, partying without losing control. "If you reach for too much of a good thing, or starve yourself with too little, you’ll lose that critical balance," Phair says. The LP was produced by Brad Wood, who also worked on Exile in Guyville, Whip-Smart and whitechocolatespaceegg. “I found my inspiration for Soberish by delving into an early era of my music development - my art school years spent listening to Art Rock and New Wave music non-stop on my Walkman” Phair said. This first single narrates the reaction to the collapse of a relationship: "I don't want to see anybody I know / I don't want to be anywhere that you and I used to go."

Oliver Wood: Fine Line

The frontman of The Wood Brothers isn't leaving that group, but makes his solo debut with Always Smilin' - an album born of collaborations back when those were easy to arrange. "The year before the pandemic, people would come through Nashville where I live and I'd set up a co-write or a jam in our studio, just to do some stuff outside of my own band," Wood said. "There wasn't an album in mind. I just wanted to be creative." The first single has an earlier origin: "The song 'Fine Line' dates back to my King Johnson days," Wood said. "Bringing it back and recording it again was my way of paying tribute to that band and the music we made together" in the late 1990s.

London Grammar: How Does It Feel

This was the third single to come out before California Soil, the just-released third album from the Nottingham trio of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major. Stereogum calls the song "an upbeat spin on the London Grammar sound, keeping the sense of cinematic drama but putting a dancey skip in its step." Reid acknowledges it has more of a pop sound than much of the band's work. "I’ve always loved pop music ... This song started off as an experiment, and ended up being one of my favorites on the record. Along with our alternative side, this creates a light and shade on our album that I’ve always wanted to achieve."

Yard Arms: Hollow Ankles

Less than a year after their third EP, Sanctuary Lines, Noah Villeneuve and Billy Golding are back with more of their melancholic pop - or what they jokingly refer to as "sad bops for dad bods." Lyricist Villeneuve calls this track "a musing on the chronic instability of life," but there's an upbeat hopefulness to that musing. Yard Arms count Echo and the Bunnymen among their influences, and we definitely hear echoes of the 80s as well as the 90s and beyond in their sound.

Wilderado: Head Right

Somewhere on the rock/alternative/Americana spectrum lies this band from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They've released several singles and EPs since 2015, and are working toward a debut LP to be called Head Right. Broadwayworld calls this title single "a confident and boisterous slice of rock n' roll [that] builds on what the band does best - combining soaring melodies with lush three-part harmonies." Band member Max Rainer says the group was sitting around talking about "how sometimes the best way to ruin a song, life, or anything really, is to take it too seriously. That afternoon we wrote 'Head Right.' It ... represents a turning point for us as a band, a return to the basics and the feeling of writing music while not caring about much at all." 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The latest: The Wallflowers, Carsie Blanton, Whitehorse, Flock of Dimes, Van Go Go

The Wallflowers: Roots and Wings

Photo: Yasmin Than
The first release from Jakob Dylan since 2012's Glad All Over is this single from a new LP, Exit Wounds, due in July. Paste Magazine tells us he put together a new group of musicians for the album, and has scheduled a tour to begin in the summer. JD says of the album title: "Nobody is the same as they were four years ago. That, to me, is what Exit Wounds signifies. And it’s not meant to be negative at all. It just means that wherever you’re headed, even if it’s to a better place, you leave people and things behind, and you think about those people and those things and you carry them with you. Those are your exit wounds. And right now, we’re swimming in them."

Carsie Blanton: Party at the End of the World

Our regular listeners are familiar with this singer-songwriter, whose upcoming album Love and Rage expresses her primary messages: Love one another, and rage against hatred. "About half the time, I think the human race is doomed and there’s nothing we can do about it. On those days I alternate between despair and hedonism. This [song's] about hedonism." She's pictured here with long-time band members Joe Plowman (bass) and Patrick Firth (keyboards), who podded together and produced the album through the pandemic.

Whitehorse: Relic in the New Age

The Ontario-based duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland recently released Modern Love, the first album the couple also produced. Their sound has been described as folk-rock, Western noir, "space cowboy" and, in a publicity blurb, "a fully immersive experience of interpersonal harmonics in ultra rich waveshape sonics." Ok, then. The LP's theme is described as a "blueprint for love in the digital age," and this song expresses a sense of trying to adapt humanity to technology: "You've got me by the barcode, baby /  I know I’m just a demo failed / But somehow I prevailed / It’s evolutionary."

Flock of Dimes: Two

Photo: Graham Tolbert
Jenn Wasner, who is half of the indie-pop duo Wye Oak and a touring member of Bon Iver, has released her second solo album under the Flock of Dimes name. For Head of Roses, Wassner "assembles a different group of collaborators, but she sounds more confident than ever in her own voice," Paste writes, resulting in "an album that’s equal parts intricate, exploratory pop and thoughtful, experimental indie folk." The refrain in this song expresses the tension between independence and partnership: "Can I be one? / Can we be two? / Can I be for myself? / Still be still with you?"

Van Go Go: Both of Us

The quartet of Nathan Mackinder (vocals), Jason Schaller (guitar), Paxton Olney (bass) and Jonah Brockman (drums) formed in Michigan in 2007, recorded some demos in 2008 - then took a hiatus that turned into 12 years of pursuing other careers. Amid the pandemic, their bio says, they decided "they had unfinished business, as well as unfinished music from 2008, and they collectively decided that it was time to finish the stories that they had begun to tell before separating." They returned to Pearl Sound Studios, finished off those early songs and added  new ones. We're not sure if this one was written in '08, but to our ears it has a bit of an '80 sound.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

New from Joy Formidable, Weekend Recovery, Keeton Coffman, Annie Keating, Rag 'n' Bone Man

The Joy Formidable: Into the Blue

This single is the Welsh band's first release in three years. Does that mean there's an album on the way? The fact that this track is labeled "Single Edit" would seem to be a good clue. Lead singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan co-wrote and shares vocals with bassist Rhydian Dafydd on this song. Bryan says it's "about surrendering to love and magic. Having the courage to enjoy a new journey and the mystery and excitement of something unexpected.”

Weekend Recovery: Surprise

The trials of a new band: This group formed in 2017 in Leeds, U.K., and after extensive touring was in the midst of producing its debut album. Then the pandemic struck, the label that was going to distribute the record collapsed, and two of the five original members left the group. But a crowdfunding campaign and a new label deal revived the LP, False Company, early this year. Their sound ranges from garage band noise to anthemic pop like this single.

Keeton Coffman: Wounded Heart

This Texas singer-songwriter-guitarist has been part of our mix since his 2016 LP Killer Eyes. We've picked up a couple of his singles since then, and this latest release will be on his second full-length album, Hard Times, due in June. "This is a record I wrote from my experiences, but these aren't stories about me," he told Glide Magazine. "I hope people find themselves in the characters. His heartland rock and storytelling reflect influences such as Bruce Hornsby, Tom Petty and John Mellencamp.

Annie Keating: Marigold

In the early days of the pandemic, the Brooklyn-based Americana artist retreated with her family to Bristol County, Massachusetts, along the coast between Cape Cod and Rhode Island. Songs from that retreat make up Keating’s 8th full length album, Bristol County Tides, described as telling "an evocative story of love, loss, and finding what matters most in uncertain times." It's a mix of warm ballands and more upbeat songs, like the single we're featuring in our New Music Bin.

Rag 'n' Bone Man: All You Ever Wanted

Four years since he broke out with the album Human, Rory Graham is about to release a 15-track, semi-autobiographical collection, Life By Misadventure. A native of rural East Sussex, U.K., "Graham got his start in the hip-hop world of Brighton before finding a more suitable vehicle for his massive voice," according to AllMusic. He released a series of soulful, bluesy EPs, culminating in the 2017 LP and its hit single, also called "Human." The new album was largely produced in Nashville and, says NME, "finds Graham taking on a classic rock-influenced sound as he reminisces about the places he grew up in."

Saturday, March 27, 2021

New from Dumpstaphunk, Soda Blonde, June Star, Pete Yorn, Shayla McDaniel

Dumpstaphunk: United Nations Stomp

Take a fiery Buddy Miles classic from 1973, give it to a hot New Orleans funk jam band led by members of the Neville family, bring in Marcus King and Waddy Wachtel for extra guitar power, and you get a powerful anthem of peace and brotherhood that will raise the roof and shake the floor. The band, formed in the early 2000s by cousins Ivan and Ian Neville, will release it's third album, Where Do We Go From Here, next month. It's billed as Dumstaphunk's "most powerful and politically pointed album." Says Ivan Neville: “We hope people can hear the new songs and are inclined to dance, and inspired to think at the same time.”

Soda Blonde: Small Talk

We've featured this Dublin band a couple of times before, and now as it prepares to release its debut album, Small Talk, we bring you the title track. Lead singer Faye O'Rourke says the LP is a collection of songs "about life in our 20’s. ... Every part of us is in here, both subliminally and literally. Lyrically, this record is like a collection of my flaws and insecurities. They’re lingering awkwardly by the bar at a crowded social gathering, waiting to integrate with the wider world.” Far from the only ones making music on those themes (cf. Middle Kids), they bring a seasoned sound to this self-produced album.

Pete Yorn: Rooftop

Photo by Jim Wright
Marking the 20th anniversary of his debut album, musicforthemorningafter, Yorn is about to release an EP consisting of three live versions of mftma songs -- and this "lost song," an outtake from those 1991 sessions. The New Jersey native was living in Los Angeles and writing music for movies and TV when he recorded the album. "We made it in garages in California, in Van Nuys and Culver City… I just made music that I liked and I knew that there were no guarantees of where it would get me…but twenty years later I am really proud of the impact the record has had and it still carries a deep emotional resonance for me.”.

June Star: How We See It Now

Photo by Shane Gardner
This is the title track from the latest release by Andrew Grimm's roots-rock project. Glide Magazine writes: "Pedal-steel-laden laments sway drunkenly next to folk-rock foot-stompers and [Grimm's] vocal performances ache with the same existential doubt we all feel at the moment." His voice reminds our ear of The Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollett while the lyrics and modern-country arrangement bear similarity to James McMurtry. This song "is a reflection on the inevitable change we agree to when your status shifts from single to in a relationship to it’s complicated,"  says Grimm. "There’s a fine line between compromise and sacrifice.”

Shayla McDaniel: Let Me Breathe (How to Break Our Hearts)

This is the latest in a string of singles this Knoxville, Tenn., singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has released over the past five years. Each is a gem, featuring thoughtful lyrics and McDaniel's warm, expressive voice. This song, she says, "is about figuring out if a relationship is challenging but healthy, or tough and unnecessary." It was composed over a drumbeat laid down by Peter Mansen of Deep Sea Diver.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

New releases from Amy Helm, The Lone Bellow, Said the Whale, Mansionair, Stevie Redstone

Amy Helm: Breathing

This single is the first taste from What the Flood Leaves Behind, due in June. The album was recorded at Levon Helm Studios, the Woodstock, N.Y., venue built by Amy Helm's late father. “Going back to the place where I learned so much about how to express music, how to hold myself in music, how to listen to music -- it was humbling in a funny way," Helm says. "I could see clearly where I came from and where I am now in my life." Producer Josh Kaufman, whose credits include Taylor Swift’s folklore, says he wanted Helm "to feel like she had that freedom to be herself on the recordings and she just filled up the whole room." Those of us who have seen her perform live know well that her voice can fill any room. Collaborators on the record include Phil Cook (keys, harmonica), Michael Libramento (bass, organ, percussion), Tony Mason (drums), Daniel Littleton (guitar), Stuart Bogie (saxophone), Jordan McLean (trumpet), Helm’s son Lee Collins (congas) and Kaufman (piano, guitar and mandolin).

The Lone Bellow: Dried Up River 

"What if life is all about / Giving back the love we found?" (The Beatles would respond that of course it is, in The End.) Just over a year after the release of the Nashville-based trio's fourth album, Half Moon Light, the Bellow is back with this single, bringing its signature roots-meets-arena sound to a song about focusing on the important things in life. “I want to be grateful for the food on my table / Instead of eating each other alive.” Band member Brian Elmquist says that lyric is "a line that I’ve come back to countless times over the past year. There’s so much that I worry about that doesn’t matter, and I want to put more effort into the things that do."

Said the Whale: Honey Lungs

Finding meaning, love, happiness in today's weird world is a common theme in lyrics these days. This Vancouver band's new single opens with the line, "I don't believe in a god of hate," speaks of "leaning into love" and builds to the proclamation: "You can find the joy in every agonizing moment of existence on this planet." Singer-songwriters Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester, keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown and bassist Lincoln Hotchen have spent their lockdown days working on new material and promise more releases throughout the year.
In preparation for its upcoming second album, the Sydney, Australia-based band headed down the coast for a songwriting retreat. Lead singer Jack Froggatt says this first single "began as a concept about a character completely delusional with their desire for more. We started playing around in new time signatures trying to figure out where it fit best, eventually landing on 5/4 which has this feeling of never really resolving and always feeling tense." With its theme of desperate consumerism, the lyric reminds us of Arcade Fire's Everything Now.

Stevie Redstone: Now

This single's entry into our New Music bin is a case of a song getting a second life. It's a track from the Los Angeles singer-songwriter-pianist's debut LP, Shot in the Dark, which he self-released in 2019. A new publicity push sent it our way, and we're including it under our "it's still new if it's new to us" rule. Redstone rocks out on this number, joined by guitars, drums, horns and backing vocalists. A line in the song says "the sound keeps drowning out," and that's pretty much what the arrangement does to his piano.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

New sounds from Veronica Lewis, Crown Lands, Middle Kids, Wild Tibetan Monks, Lake Street Dive

Veronica Lewis: You Ain't Unlucky

Somehow at age 17, this New Hampshire native sounds like she came up in New Orleans or maybe Chicago in the 1950s. The Boston Music Awards' Blues Artist of the Year 2020, she recently released her debut album, with six original songs and two covers. On this title track, her honky-tonk piano and crystal-clear voice are accented by saxophonist Don Davis. "One of the lyrics in the song says ‘Some people think it’s bad every cherry has a pit, but honey, inside every pit is a whole ‘nother tree,’" Lewis said in an interview with Americana Highways. "This is definitely an overarching theme of the song which is, in life something may seem bad, or like an obstacle in your way, but if you look at it from a different point of view, you can at least try to find something to appreciate and be grateful for."

Crown Lands: Right Way Back

After releasing their blues-rock-oriented debut album, this duo from Oshawa, Ontario, began reworking a prog-style song they'd written previously. They demoed "Context: Fearless Pt. 1" with the help of former Rush producer Terry Brown. Then they traveled to Nashville to work with former Rush producer Nick Raskulinecz. See a pattern here? Drummer-vocalist Cody Bowles and guitarist Kevin Comeau acknowledge Rush as their prime inspiration. Raskulinecz pulled out drums that Neal Peart had used on the 2007 Snakes & Arrows album for the session. Along with the nearly-eight-minute "Context...," they created our featured track as a tribute to Peart.

Wild Tibetan Monks: Lying Next To You

This trio from Dublin moved to Western Australia for a couple of years of touring and developing their music, then returned to Ireland as the pandemic took hold. Last fall we featured their single "Cartoons," recorded in Perth; this single is their first release since their return. They describe it as a "nostalgic indie-rock song [with] semi-sweet vocals and a spacey instrumental arrangement. ... The song is about not just physically lying next to someone, but lying in not telling them the truth.”

Middle Kids: Stacking Chairs

Just ahead of the release of their second album, Today We're the Greatest, this Sydney-based band has spun out a fourth single - a chiming love song that reflects on singer-songwriter Hannah Joy’s marriage with bandmate Tim Fitz. Joy's lyrics are typically self-critical - "I'm wrapped up in all these weird theories / Running in circles, chased by bees" - but there is real tenderness and appreciation here. "When the wheels come off, I'll be your spare / When the party's over, I'll be stacking the chairs / When the world turns on you, I will be there."

Lake Street Dive: Hush Money

This is perhaps the most-rollicking track on the band's new album, Obviously. It mocks crooked politicians from the cynical point of view of someone looking to make a buck off scandal. "I got a whistle, and I think I'll blow it / And now you want me to be quiet, you won't get it for free / 
So let me get some of that hush money."

Saturday, March 6, 2021

New from Kings of Leon, Teenage Fanclub, Kiwi Jr., Joanna Connor + introducing Crimson Peak

Kings of Leon: Stormy Weather

On their eighth album, the Followill brothers and cousin embrace "the mature, laid-back versions of themselves," as NME puts it. "There are meditations on growing older and statements on climate change, interspersed with love letters to quiet, domestic romance." But there are also "plenty of high-energy bursts of light you can already see bringing a crowd to life." We previously featured the lead single, "The Bandit," and our pick this week is another of the more arena-friendly rockers, with a prominent, funky bass line.

Teenage Fanclub: I'm More Inclined

The deceptively named veteran indie rockers are preparing to release their 10th album (or 11th or 12th, depending on who's counting), Endless Arcade. AllMusic calls them "an eternally underrated Scottish indie band with wonderful melodies and Byrds-influenced harmonies." The press release says of the album: "Melodies are equal parts heartwarming and heart-aching; guitars chime and distort; keyboard lines mesh and spiral; harmony-coated choruses burst out like sun on a stormy day." Our featured track certainly has that warm-and-sunny, California-70s sound.

Kiwi Jr.: Cooler Returns

Photo by Padrian McLeod
Does the press release for these Toronto indie-rockers' second album really mean to call it their "sophomoric" release? Whether a typo or a joke, it hints at the collegiate-level ironic humor that the band brings to its takes on life in the unsettled times. The Revue writes that this title track "is situated in the dumpster fire that was 2020. A massively upbeat sonic experiment of hip-shaking, head-spinning, neck-jerking, quirky guitar pop-rock [wherein] the gents discuss how the past year truly screwed up people’s equilibrium and sense of self."

Joanna Connor: Destination

We bring a strong dose of Chicago-style blues rock to our playlist with this track from the new album 4801 South Indiana Avenue. The title refers to the former location of a renowned South Side blues club. "For a studio album this technically stellar and concisely written, it is soaked in a rawness and energy that exceeds many live performances," writes Blues Rock Review. Guitarist-singer-songwriter Connor "wastes no time opening 'Destination' with fiery-rapid fire slide-licks that display an impressive combination of speed and precision. Reese Wynans provides a full-bodied piano underpinning that allows the vocal call-and-response duo of Connor and Jimmy Hall to flex their singing muscles."

Crimson Peak: Lies

Photo by Frida Lönnroos
Our friends at Saint in the City Records introduced us to this pop-rock band from Helsinki, Finland. The group has put out several singles since 2018 and is preparing to release its debut EP. As the indie label describes it: "Big pop choruses nestle amongst driving rock guitars and widescreen, atmospheric indie-folk soundscapes, all driven by alternating vocals from Lina Sandvik and Elias Losinskij-Kovanko." This latest single "is a song about letting a fake person know that you can see through them,” says one of the band's two lead vocalists, Lina Sandvik. “The truth will always eventually come out.”

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Music variety! New sounds from The Big Takeover, Brigitte DeMeyer, Real Estate, ROOKS, The Raft

The Big Takeover: Shy

Based in New York's Hudson Valley and fronted by Jamaican-born singer and songwriter Nee Nee Rushie, this seven-piece band describes itself as playing "original music that is rooted in and reverent toward the genres and rhythms of Jamaican pop: reggae, rocksteady, ska." They also blend in "the spirit of Motown and the uptown sophistication of the 21st century retro soul and R&B revival scene." This track is one of the advance singles from their upcoming album Spilling Water.

Brigitte DeMeyer: Cat Man Do

We're always interested in music and musicians that blend multiple influences in new ways, and that applies to this track from DeMeyer's new album, Seeker. A Californian who has spent much of the past decade in Nashville, she "draws on country, folk, blues, gospel, and classic pop for her diverse Americana," as AllMusic puts it. She teams with Wood Brothers pianist/producer Jano Rix on her new album, Seeker. This slinky track with a jazz flavor tells a tale of a "tragically hip" hustler trying to find "the right kind of cool." 

Real Estate: Half a Human

This is the title track from an upcoming EP composed of songs that were initially sketched out during the sessions for the 2020 LP The Main Thing. "The tracks came to life," the band says, when its members "began trading the material back and forth remotely throughout the pandemic." Vocalist/guitarist Martin Courtney says "I was feeling a little weird about being in a band. Like, ‘How is this still a thing?’ ... [But] this is what we’re good at and it’s what we love to do and want to keep doing.”


Following up their debut album, last year's The High Road, this trio from Western Canada has already released two singles this year. "We recorded this track in the middle of our second lockdown here in Alberta," the band says. "Jay (singer/guitarist) was in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and the rest of the band was in Calgary. We sent tracks back and forth until IDM was created. Kinda neat we were never in the same room throughout the process." That's the way so much new music is being recorded these days, we wonder if playing together in a studio is going to become the exception instead of the rule.

The Raft: There's No Going Back

Phil Wilson has been writing recording and performing under the name The Raft since 2003. Based near Liverpool, he cites influences including The Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and The Sundays - and yeah, The Beatles. This track comes from the new LP Summerheads and Winter Beds.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Bill Toms & Hard Rain, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Manchester Orchestra, Fly the Nest, Lake Street Dive in our New Music Bin

Bill Toms & Hard Rain: Everybody's Talking

This Pittsburgh-based blues-rock-roots band will release it's tenth "studio" album, Keep Movin' On, in April, and we're glad to get the chance to spin this early single. We put studio in quotes because, as with many recent releases, guitarist/frontman Toms, his band and The Soulville Horns put it together from remote locations. It was an unusual experience for a group that's used to playing live - and whose previous release was, in fact, 2019's Live. The new LP was pulled together with help from producer Rick Witkowski, long-time member of Crack the Sky, another band with ties to the Pittsburgh area. The result is solid, soulful rock'n'roll from a veteran band, led by the one-time lead guitarist for Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers.

Edie Brickell and New Bohemians: I Don't Know

Singer-songwriter Brickell and the New Bos have been an on-and-off project for more than three decades, releasing just three albums after their 1998 debut, Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars. But after reuniting in 2017 and releasing Rocket the following year, they are back relatively quickly with Hunter and the Dog Star. It's filled with a collection of short-story-like songs backed by the inventive playing of guitarist Kenny Withrow, bassist Brad Houser, drummer Brandon Aly, percussionist John Bush and keyboardist Matt Hubbard. Band members told Relix that most of the tracks were the result of improvisation in the studio. Of our pick for the New Music bin, Withrow said it was built around one riff that emerged from three hours of jamming.

Manchester Orchestra: Bed Head

Photo: Shervin Lainez
On The Million Masks of God, the sixth album by this Atlanta-based alt-rock band, "singer-guitarist Andy Hull, guitarist Robert McDowell, drummer Tim Very, and bassist Andy Prince aimed to create a cinematic, immersive experience that’s meant to be listened to in one sitting," writes Consequence of Sound. That will have to wait until the LP's release in April, but in the meantime they've carved out this single. "Over a distorted drum pattern that glitches at various points, Manchester Orchestra race through a brooding melody about being caught in tough situations and grappling with grief."

Fly the Nest: Old Street Lover

Several months ago, we featured "Borrowed Time" by this Dublin-based singer-songwriter, a.k.a. Stephen Cooper. As a frequent writer of music for films and television, he brings a wide-screen sound and dramatic energy to his songs. “This song is about having a connection with someone that’s ultimately lost," Cooper says. "Though it hurts to see it end, you really do wish them the best and hope they find what they’re looking for.”

Lake Street Dive: Hypotheticals

Ahead of the upcoming album Obviously comes this song about the hopeful early days of a relationship. writes: "After a fascinating intro from [lead singer Rachel] Price, the band locks into a groove-heavy R&B vibe. From Bridget Kearney’s funky acoustic bass trimmings to the spacey synthesizer solo, Lake Street Dive and [producer Mike] Elizondo are firmly on the same page. And the lyrics about yearning for a positive romantic outcome are ear tantalizing: Hypothetically, yes / Theoretically, forever / We'll see what happens / But I hope we will never be apart.”

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Introducing Gorstey Lea Street Choir + new music by The Staves, Tune-Yards, Valley, Yukon Blonde

The Gorstey Lea Street Choir: Lowborn & Stargazing

Through the magical mysteries of social media, we came upon this band from Burntwood, Staffordshire, U.K., which happened to have just released its first EP (cleverly titled Extended Play 1) in December. We're always looking for new and different sounds, and were immediately taken by this brass-infused track. The story goes that band leaders Michael and Russ met when they were teens, but didn't get around to making music together until some 35 years later, when Michael joined Russ at a gig. The crowd kept asking for more, the landlord booked them again, and they made up their band name on the spot - with a nod to Van Morrison.

The Staves: Best Friend

On their new album, Good Woman, Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor expand on their folk-trio sound with the help of producer John Congleton, known for his work with Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent and Sharon Van Etten. The title track is getting a lot of airplay, and we'll include it in our mix, but we're featuring this bright, upbeat track that Paste says "bursts with electronic flavor [and] casts the sisters’ glorious three-part harmonies in a new light." 

Tune-Yards: hold yourself.

What Pitchfork describes as the "eclectic agit-prop project" of Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner has a fifth album on the way, called sketchy. Pitchfork says of this single: "Centered around Garbus’ powerhouse vocals, the gauzy, bass-heavy beat ballad delivers a potent message of self-empowerment." Garbus herself puts it in a different context: "This song is about feeling really betrayed, by my parents’ generation, and at the same time, really seeing how we are betraying the future.”

Valley: Like 1999

Are the members of Valley old enough to be nostalgic for 1999? Longing for the days before the internet and text-messaging? Apparently so, or at least they can imagine themselves as young adults in that time. "Let's go back before 2000," the Toronto indie-pop band sings, "Back before our love was so distracted." Our favorite lyric: "I wish that Y2K had happened / We would stay forever classic / You and I would both be trapped in 1999." 

Yukon Blonde: Fickle Feelings

Before it gets too old to qualify for our New Music bin, we're dipping back into Vindicator, the Blondes' fifth album, released in November. This time we're featuring the track their hometown newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, called "One of the best songs the band has ever written. This easy-flowing funky tune begins with James Younger’s loping bass slides that could have been lifted right from the Style Council’s 'Long Hot Summer.' Then a sharp distorted guitar riff slices in and Rebecca Gray’s chiming vocals begin."